Study Guide

Doctor Faustus Act 1, Scene 1

By Christopher Marlowe

Act 1, Scene 1

  • Meet Faustus. He's busy trying to figure out what in the world he wants to do with his life.
  • As he mulls over the options—philosophy, medicine, law—he rejects them all for being too boring and too pointless. 
  • Of course there's always theology; he's really good at that.
  • But no dice. See, the problem is, every time he reads the Bible, Faustus can't help but conclude that man's sins give him no hope of heaven anyways. 
  • Finally, he makes the call: Faustus decides to study magic, of all things, because a magician is almost like a god.
  • Okay, time to get cracking on his plan. He tells his servant, Wagner, to fetch Valdes and Cornelius, his friends, who happen to be a couple of magicians. They should be able to help, right?
  • But before they can stop by, the Good Angel enters and tells Faustus to lay the books of magic aside, and to read the scriptures instead. Seriously, dude, magic?
  • Ah, never mind him, says the Bad Angel. Faustus should go ahead with his plan, because he'll be godlike, and what's so wrong with that? 
  • Faustus is totally convinced, and begins to wax poetic about all the things he'll do once he masters magic. He's totally pumped about the whole power thing.
  • Valdes and Cornelius enter, and Faustus gives them the good news: Dudes, I want to be a magician! Finally! 
  • Awesome, says Valdes. He tells Faustus that through their studies of magic, they'll gain the spirits as their slaves, and accumulate unimaginable wealth.
  • For his part, Cornelius says that Faustus already knows the basic principles of magic, since he's learned in astrology, languages, and geology. So this'll be a breeze.
  • He also says that Faustus will become totally famous for his magic, and totally wealthy, too. Seriously, this magic business is starting to sound like a really good idea.
  • Valdes and Cornelius tell Faustus to come with them to a deserted grove, and to bring the books of Bacon, Albanus, and the Old and New Testaments. Hey, whatever you say, guys.
  • But first, Faustus invites them to dine with him. You can't do magic on an empty stomach—didn't your mother ever tell you that?